Archive for November, 2012

Please Know This About Your Brain!

Sunday, November 11th, 2012

One of the most important books that I have read in recent years is CHANGE YOUR BRAIN.CHANGE YOUR LIFE by Dr. Daniel Amen.  He is probably the foremost brain imager in the world. I spent a day with him in a seminar about five years ago and he made an enormous impression on me.  I share some of his work.

An excerpt from this book:

“The brain is a three-pound supercomputer.  It is the command and control center running your life.  It is involved in absolutely everything you do.  Your brain determines how you think, how you feel, how you act, and how well you get along with other people.  Your     One of the better books that I have read in recent times is CHANGE YOUR brain even determines the kind of person you are.  It determines how thoughtful you are; how polite or how rude you are.  It determines how well you think on your feet, and it is involved with how well you do at work and with your family.  You brain also influences your emotional well being and how well you do with the opposite sex.  Your brain is more complicated than any computer we can imagine.  Did you know that you have one hundred billion nerve cells in your brain, and every nerve cell has more connections in it than there are stars in the universe?  Optimizing your brain’s function is essential to being the best you can be, whether at work, in leisure, or in relationships.”

Dr. Amen lists seven ways to enhance the functioning of your brain and your life:


The brain itself is soft.  The skull is hard but it has many bony ridges making the brain vulnerable to trauma – especially in the areas related to memory, learning, and mood stability.

The brain also needs to be protected from many chemicals that are toxic to the brain.  Alcohol, drugs of abuse, nicotine, too much caffeine decrease blood flow to the brain.  With limited blood flow the brain cannot work efficiently.  One research study by Dr. Amen showed that in chronic marijuana users, eighty-five per cent had less activity in their temporal lobes than the control group.  The temporal lobes are involved with memory and mood stability.

Sleep deprivation decreases brain activity and limits access to learning, memory, and concentration.  Most people need at least seven hours of sleep on average.

Stress affects brain functioning, especially in the memory centers.  Brain cells die with prolonged stress.


The fuel you feed your brain has a profound effect on how it functions.  Lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids are essential to brain function.


ANTS are automatic negative thoughts.  Negative thoughts inflame brain areas involved with depression and anxiety.  Happy hopeful thoughts calm the brain.


The brain is a muscle.  The more you use it, the more you can use it.  Every time you learn something new your brain makes a new connection. Learning enhances blood flow and activity in the brain.


Dr. Amen cites studies that found “regular sexual contact had an important impact on physical and emotional well being of women.    Enhancing estrogen levels for women through regular sexual activity enhances overall brain activity and improves memory.”


Concert state means a “relaxed body with a sharp clear mind.”  Deep relaxation and focus are important in getting to this brain wave state.  Deep belly breathing and meditation are valuable tools here.


The National Institute of Health (NIH) says that 49% of Americans will have significant mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, ADD, OCD, substance abuse problems, etc…  Dr. Amen says that “successful people have problems; they are smart enough to seek help.  The earlier the better.”

For more information on Dr. Amen’s work with the brain, may I suggest his website,   Keep your brain working as best you can for as long as you can.  Hope this helps!


What Does “Friend” Mean to You?

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

I have an interest in words that people use to describe various people, things, thoughts, feelings, etc… In conversation I will often ask a person what he or she meant when using a particular word.  One of the words I pay attention to is “friend”. The word means different things to various people.

Webster’s offers a number of descriptors.  Among them are: 1. One attached to another by affection or esteem.   2. Acquaintance. 3. One that is not hostile There is quite a range in closeness just in those three definitions.

Often the word “friend” is a fill-in-the-blank  word to describe a wide range of relationship from someone you just met to someone you’ve been sleeping with – and all shades between. When you don’t want to, or can’t adequately describe the relationship you have with someone, you just call that person “friend”.

So, what does “friend” mean to you?  Some people “need” a “best friend”.  Some people want a best friend, but don’t need/want one to exist or be happy.  A variety of “friends” suffice.  Some people are very independent and don’t want anyone that close to them. Acquaintances are all that are desired.

What is your experience with friendship? Has it been positive?  Have you had friends of long standing?  A few short timers?  Been hurt or very disappointed in a friend?  Have you become “gunshy” in regard to letting anyone very close to you?

Women generally need and/or want a “best friend” as well as “friends”. Women usually have a greater affinity for relationships.  They like to talk with each other fairly frequently about a myriad of things, i.e. husbands, boyfriends, sex, the kids, parents, in laws, animals, recipes, past and upcoming events, perhaps some gossip, etc..

Men generally have buddies and, perhaps, a “good friend” from earlier days. Men don’t like to talk as often as women do or about as many things.  Men’s topics usually focus on sports, finances, sex (if alcohol involved) and aching body parts prohibiting them from being the great athlete they used to be.

The bottom line issue in this article is to ask you what “friend” means to you.  What is your experience?  What is your need?  Do you want a “best friend”?  Are your needs being met in the friend category?  If not, what are you doing to build or repair friendships that meet your desires?

There may be a place in your life for reaching out statements like these that may (re)create friendship:

“I’m sorry I hurt you.  Can we be friends again?” (Female) “Can I buy you a drink?” (Male)

“It seems we have a lot in common.  I’d like to get to know you better.” (Female) “Can I buy you a drink?  (Male)

“Would you like to have lunch together” (Female) “Can I buy you a drink?”   (Male)

I’ll close with some of the words from the “You’ve got a friend” poet, James Taylor:

Hey, ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend?

People can be so cold.

They’ll hurt you and desert you.

Well, they’ll take your soul if you let them.

Oh yeah, but don’t you let them

You just call out my name…  you’ve got a friend.

“The unexamined life is not worth living”      Socrates


“Imagine” Creating a Vision Statement for Your Relationship!

Sunday, November 4th, 2012

Recently I received a gift from a couple who have been in marriage counseling with me.  They had just returned from New York where they had gone to Strawberry Fields and saw a print of IMAGINE from the John Lennon song.  They thought of me and bought it.  Their thoughtfulness was very touching.

The reason that I had come to mind when they saw IMAGINE is that, in working with them, I had asked them to individually write a “vision statement” of what each of them wanted and needed in the marriage to be happy.  We would use this as a basis of communication, planning, compromise, and implementation for a new life together.  They did a masterful job, putting much time and effort into it.  Much of that vision has been created with the few remaining pieces on schedule for development.  They are a happy couple.

This couple took their marriage seriously, found a therapist in whom both could believe, and trusted the therapist to lead a process of healing the past and creating a new possibility for a romantic relationship in the future.  A trusting and confident relationship with the therapist is crucial in this process.

Men usually are skeptical of the value of marriage counseling.  They often are less trusting and less capable of opening up sensitive feelings and thoughts.  I always welcome the challenge to prove pragmatically to men, as well as women, that an investment in marriage counseling is well spent with multiple lifetime dividends.

Most couples do not make the time together, before or during their marriage, to create a “vision statement”, a plan of how they want to live together.  A “vision statement” needs to accommodate a wide spectrum of individual, couple, and family concerns, especially in such vital areas as finances, sexuality, vocations, leisure time, etc… The relationship needs to develop and adjust over time, with two individuals becoming interdependent on each other.  As partners they dream about possibilities, make concrete decisions, and agree on roles and responsibilities to implement the vision.

The key to successful execution of the plan is commitment to the relationship, trust and respect, good communication, flexibility, and compromise.  Both individuals must have equal opportunity for input and decision-making.  A “we” needs to be developed that encompasses the hopes and dreams of each person. Periodic reviews and updating based on new realities make this a living document for an energized relationship.

These upcoming holidays can offer an opportune time of reflection and awareness of emotions, particularly about one’s primary relationship. It just might be a good time to invite your special person to create a “vision statement” with you.  IMAGINE,  you, too, can have a romantic relationship that works. And works. And Works!